Steve asked in a comment to last week’s article,
Can you shine any light on the TBP (Toyota Business Practice) method of problem solving, i am aware this is inline with the Toyota Way, but have not come across any web sites or books with this format ??
The Toyota Business Practice is old wine in new bottles. Granted it’s very old, very good wine, but is nothing new. Peeling off the label will reveal the last decade’s under-appreciated but full-bodied PDCA brand of problem solving. Lately many people have found the A3 label of problem solving to a refreshing take on PDCA. But it’s all the same old wine. From a branding point of view, “the Toyota Way of Working” or “Toyota WOW” would have been cooler, but it was probably too close to Toyota Way itself. In any case, the 8 steps of the Toyota Business Process are:
- Clarify the problem
- Breakdown the problem
- Set a target
- Analyze the root cause
- Develop countermeasures
- See countermeasures through
- Evaluate both results and process
- Standardize successful processes
Here is how this process would map to an A3 document for the purpose of problem solving, business planning or making a proposal. This is in itself just a slight variant of the QC Storyline of TQC.
Follow this process and you inevitably have kaizen. Here is a close up of the classic problem solving funnel. You can see how the first 5 steps or the Plan phase of the Toyota Business Process map to this funnel, with steps 6 – 8 being the Do, Check, Act portion of the PDCA cycle of continuous improvement.
The 8 steps of TBP written in Japanese are below, with my translations. There are some slight but interesting differences in nuance, and these always make me wonder how much loss results from translation of Toyota principles, precepts and philosophies. Step 1 “Set a target” seems a bit loose while Japanese contains the word “achieve” that plants the idea that targets are things that must be met. Step 4 is not “analyze” but “think through” or “think until you find” and step 8 in Japanese doesn’t talk about “standardize” (this being an implied part of the Toyota WOW) but instead stresses that the results must become “established” or “take hold”.
トヨタの仕事の仕方8ステップ (the 8 steps of the Toyota way of working)
- 問題を明確にする (clarify the problem)
- 問題をブレイクダウンする (breakdown the problem)
- 達成目標を決める (set the target to be achieved)
- 真因を考え抜く (think through to the true cause)
- 対策を立てる (develop countermeasures)
- 対策をやりぬく (follow through on the countermeasures)
- 結果とプロセスを評価する (evaluate the result and the process)
- 成果を定着させる (make sure the results take hold)
As a standard problem solving process, it is excellent and widely applicable. Inevitably “PDCA” alone was too vague. The Socratic teaching method and talk of “it takes 40 years to learn” at Toyota has given way to a more deliberate method of teaching this thinking process at Toyota, based on what I have seen. We could say the TBP is the result of clarify, break down, and so forth, applied to the teaching of PDCA.
Sometimes I think the genius of the Toyota approach is that this process is so simple, obvious, and offensive to the intelligence and self-worth of most senior executives and go-getters out there that they close the book and say, “That can’t be right. There must be more to it.” Most people won’t understand TBP or try it. You can’t really understand it until you try it. So it comes back to a question of packaging and motivation.
As far as additional resources for TBP… I am not sure you really need any. The book Extreme Toyota mentions TBP and has a few case studies and A3-type stories that follow this process, but not in great detail on the thinking and tools used. Managing to Learn by John Shook is also a good place to get a handle on the Toyota way of working.
Read some classic Deming on PDCA and you can’t go wrong. The content of TBP is nothing proprietary so if people need more details on the 8 steps let me know and I’ll see if we can’t put together a PDF or something to download.